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Screenwriting for Film & Television

Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, Master of Arts

Degree Type

Master of Arts, Master of Fine Arts

Department

Graduate Program in Creative Writing

Film and TV are the most impactful modern storytelling mediums, and the demand for new voices is greater than ever. Gain the experience and skills you’ll need for a thriving career in screenwriting.

Program Overview

Immerse yourself in the business of screenwriting.

As a student in Western’s MFA and M.A. in Screenwriting program, you’ll learn about Hollywood standard writing methodology and gain valuable insights into how this exciting business works. Through a dynamic blend of coursework and hands-on experience, you’ll learn how to find your place in the industry, elevate best practices and use this highly visual and theme-driven medium to display your knowledge and creativity. Recent guests have included – J D Payne, Billy Ray, Glen Mazzara, Sarah Nicole Jones, Diane Bell, Tripper ClancyMike Reiss, John Bowman, Joel Thompson, and many more.

Industry insights

Bill McAdams Jr. answers questions following the screening of his new film, “Gallows Road” in Western’s University Theater.

Program Requirements

At Western, course rotations are crafted to encompass a variety of subject fields for a comprehensive education and versatile degree. For required courses and degree plans, visit the official University Catalog. Below is a general overview of courses at Western Colorado University related to this area of study.

Concentration in Screenwriting for Feature Film and Television

The Concentration in Screenwriting for Feature Film and Television includes instruction in the history and analysis of classical and contemporary screenwriting texts and the resulting films. The program emphasizes instruction in writing the visual narrative, three- and four-act structure, character development, thematic development, conflict, genre, story arc, and dialogue, for both the feature-length screenplay and television writing. Students also learn to apply strategies and techniques for the effective teaching of creative writing.

The MFA Concentration in Screenwriting for Feature Film and Television requires the following 60 credits:

CRWR 600Summer Orientation1
CRWR 661Film History and Analysis; the Visual Narrative2
CRWR 662Story, Conflict, Character, and Genre in Screenwriting2
CRWR 663Screenwriting, Competition, Representation, the Option2
CRWR 665Screenwriting Genre6
CRWR 668Television Drama and Sit Comedy6
CRWR 671Writing the First Feature-Length Screenplay6
CRWR 675Writing the TV Pilot6
CRWR 678Adaptation6
CRWR 690Screenwriting Master's Capstone I6
CRWR 691Screenwriting Master's Capstone II6
Select one of the following out-of-concentration courses during the second Fall term:6
CRWR 609
Genre Studies I-Romance and Mystery
CRWR 610
Genre Fiction Writing and Reading Survey
CRWR 614
Traditional Publishing I
CRWR 623
Independent and New Model Publishing I
CRWR 646
Narrative Poetry
CRWR 685
Craft of Creative Nonfiction
Three credits of:3
CRWR 694
Capstone (must be taken for a total of three credits)

Screenwriting as a Second Concentration

Students pursuing this second MFA concentration must earn 30 credits as follows: 

CRWR 600Summer Orientation1
CRWR 663Screenwriting, Competition, Representation, the Option2
CRWR 665Screenwriting Genre6
CRWR 668Television Drama and Sit Comedy6
CRWR 671Writing the First Feature-Length Screenplay6
CRWR 675Writing the TV Pilot6
or CRWR 678 Adaptation
Three credits of:
CRWR 694
Capstone (must be taken for a total of three credits)

Students may count CRWR 665 Screenwriting Genre toward the second concentration if they have already taken it to fulfill the out-of-concentration course required by their primary concentration.

Careers

Career preparation starts your first year at Western and is the primary focus of every degree.

Visit Career Services in Library 120 or online to discover your interests, define your goals, and land the career of your dreams.

The data below is automatically collected by Burning Glass Technologies, a firm that sources job market data and provides analytics. The statistics illustrate general trends in U.S. careers, but do not precisely represent every job and salary.

The Program

Acquire critical skills and experience in an efficient and effective program.

Western’s graduate Creative Writing program follows a low-residency format. Faculty and students interact online through Zoom and Canvas during the academic year and gather in person on Western’s campus for two weeks each July for intensive classes and to work closely with nationally recognized authors on their writing.

  • Residency: MFA students attend three summer residencies. The first helps students develop a visual narrative style; the second focuses on workshopping short screenplays; and the third prepares graduates to present their work through pitches, table reads, and more. M.A. students only attend the first two residencies.
  • Academic Year: During the academic year, full-time students take two courses each semester. These six-credit courses make use of video conferencing and web platforms for online work. MFA students complete four such semesters, and M.A. students complete two.
  • Additional Opportunities: Guests and visiting artists compliment course instruction throughout the year. In their second fall term, MFA students take one class in another creative writing concentration (Genre Fiction, Poetry, Nature Writing or Publishing). All students are given guidance on how to succeed in the film industry.
  • Matriculation: To complete the MFA, students spend their final semester working on a feature-length screenplay under the close supervision of a faculty mentor. These screenplays are then given a professional table read at the final residency. To complete the M.A., students complete the coursework of their two academic semesters and two residencies.

Modern storytelling

We believe in teaching our students how to find their place in this industry, elevate the norms, invite in the unexpected, and use this highly visual and theme-driven medium to shake up the world with their stories.

Opportunities and Partnerships

  • Portfolio built of two feature films, a TV pilot (Network/Cable/Streaming), a TV Spec and multiple shorts (in various Genres).
  • Intense focus on crucial development elements, structure and character build.
  • Critical analysis and script coverage training.
  • One-on-one mentorship and class workshops, online and in-person.
  • Intimate workshops with guests and visiting artists, recently including J D Payne, Billy Ray, Glen Mazzara, Sarah Nicole Jones, Diane Bell, Tripper Clancy, Mike Reiss, John Bowman, Joel Thompson, and many more.
  • Instruction on cutting edge business, legal and getting into production.
  • Career plan coaching.
  • Robust alumni association and support.
  • For MFA students, ability to take a course from the program’s other concentrations: Genre Fiction, Poetry, Nature Writing and Publishing.
  • Opportunity to add a second concentration to degrees, allowing for unique combination degrees, such as Screenwriting and Genre Fiction or Screenwriting and Publishing.

On-campus screenings

Julie Johnson from Rocky Moutain Public Media speaks about Water Week prior to the Water Channel’s “Western Water and Power” premiere.

News & Research

GPCW growth

Graduate Program Pushes Caps on Enrollment During Pandemic

Read More about Graduate Program Pushes Caps on Enrollment During Pandemic
Nature Writing MFA names new director

Nature Writing MFA names new director

Read More about Nature Writing MFA names new director
New York Times publishes op-ed by Western’s Genre Fiction Director

New York Times publishes op-ed by Western’s Genre Fiction Director

Read More about New York Times publishes op-ed by Western’s Genre Fiction Director
Genre Fiction Director, Fran Wilde

Western Announces New Director of Genre Fiction

Read More about Western Announces New Director of Genre Fiction
Western announces new Nature Writing MFA

Western announces new Nature Writing MFA

Read More about Western announces new Nature Writing MFA
Learning in the dark: Celluloid Cinema makes watching old movies that new thing

Learning in the dark: Celluloid Cinema makes watching old movies that new thing

Read More about Learning in the dark: Celluloid Cinema makes watching old movies that new thing

Director

Tyson Hausdoerffer, Ph.D.

Director, Graduate Program in Creative Writing

Program Support Coordinator

Corinne Sublette, B.A.

Program Support Coordinator

Campus Location

Western Colorado University
Quigley Hall 117
1 Western Way
Gunnison, CO 81231

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